by William Rees
Posted: Dec 7th, 2013
It was several days before media reports and commentary on the havoc caused by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines finally began to acknowledge a possible connection to anthropogenic climate change. While no single hyper-storm can be positively attributed to human disruption of the global climate system, climate models predict that extreme weather events will increase in frequency and violence. Unprecedented natural maelstroms like Haiyan provide empirical evidence that the models are likely correct.
What continues to be almost entirely missing from media analysis is Canada’s role in all this, particularly the moral dimensions of the nation’s current economic development policies and those of several provinces (e.g., BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland). The facts, from Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, are that:
1) on a per capita basis, historically and at present, Canada stands among the world’s top greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters particularly of carbon dioxide (CO2). Canadians are therefore as responsible as anyone else on Earth for human-induced global warming. (To argue that as a nation our emissions are only 2-3 per cent of the global total is specious, essentially a form of denial);
2) the Federal government and several provinces have hitched their economic wagons largely to petroleum, natural gas and coal development/exports. In short, the nation’s economic future is tied, as a matter of deliberate policy, to the country becoming a major exporter of potentially catastrophic climate change. (To argue that Canada’s shale gas and tar-sands crude is greener or more ‘ethical’ than the alternatives is laughably ludricrous.)
This is an extraordinary state of affairs—would a thoughtful, well-informed, morally responsible people intentionally commit to an economic development path that will almost certainly contribute to accelerating climate disruption, global food shortages, ecological violence against the chronically impoverished, the physical displacement of hundreds of millions (billions?) of innocent people and generalized geopolitical chaos, possibly within their own lifetimes? (All of these things have been identified as likely outcomes of current trends in numerous graphic reports prepared by various high-level institutions ranging from national security think-tanks to the World Bank.)1 because viable alternative economic development strategies are possible.